Rose Family

Shrub to vine, often thicket-forming, generally prickly.
Leaf: generally odd-pinnately compound; stipules generally attached to petiole, generally gland-margined.
Inflorescence: generally ± cyme or flowers 1; pedicel bractlets 0.
Flower: hypanthium urn-shaped, bractlets 0; sepals often with long expanded tip; petals generally 5 (except cultivated), generally pink in California (white to red or yellow); stamens generally > 20; pistils generally many, ovaries superior, styles attached at tip, generally hairy.
Fruit: bony achenes generally enclosed in fleshy, generally ± red hypanthium (hip).
100+ species: generally northern temperate. (Latin: ancient name) [Ertter & Lewis 2008 Madroño 55:170–177] Species hybridize freely; other non-natives established locally. FNANM treatment by Lewis & Ertter uses both subspecies and varieties, the latter mostly reserved for localized variants within a subsp.
Unabridged references: [Lewis & Ertter 2007 Novon 17:342–353]

Local Species;

  1. Rosa acicularis- Prickly rose [E-flora][TSFTK]
  2. Rosa canina - Dog rose [E-flora][TSFTK]
  3. Rosa eglanteria- Sweetbrier [E-flora]
  4. Rosa gymnocarpa- Baldhip rose [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  5. Rosa multiflora- Rambler rose [E-flora]
  6. Rosa nutkana - Nootka rose
  7. Rosa pisocarpa- Clustered wild rose [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  8. Rosa rugosa- Rugosa rose [E-flora]

1. Stipules deeply fringed or comb-like; inflorescence multiflowered..........R. multiflora
1. Stipules entire to coarsely toothed; inflorescence single to several-flowered.
1a. Prickles strongly curved, stout; calyx-lobes often with conspicuous lateral segments and usually reflexed after flowering.
2. Lower surface of leaflets stalked-glandular..............R. eglanteria
2. Lower surface of leaves not stalked-glandular (sometimes a few glands along leaf axis or midrib of leaflets)..................R. canina
1a. Prickles not or slightly curved, often slender; calyx-lobes usually without lateral segments, usually ascending or erect after flowering.
3. Calyx-lobes deciduous in fruit, 12 mm long or less; petals 15 mm long or less...............R. gymnocarpa
3. Calyx-lobes persistent in fruit, greater than 12 mm long; petals greater than 15 mm long.
4. Stems with well-defined infrastipular prickles (pair of prickles at or just below each node) or nearly unarmed.
5. Calyx-lobes usually glandular-bristly; leaflets finely toothed; plants from west of the Coast-Cascade Mountains............R. pisocarpa
5. Calyx-lobes usually not glandular-bristly; leaflets coarsely toothed.
6. Flowers small and clustered; calyx-lobes mostly 1-2 cm long and 2-3.5 mm wide at base; petals 1.2-2.5 cm long................R. woodsii
6. Flowers large and usually solitary; calyx-lobes mostly 1.5-4 cm long and 3-6 mm wide at base; petals 2.5-4 cm long.....................R. nutkana
4. Stems more or less bristly with slender prickles; infrastipular prickles, if any, like the others.
7. Flowers mostly solitary, usually on lateral branchlets of current season; leaflets usually 5 to 7 (9); petals more than 2 cm long..................R. acicularis
7. Flowers commonly clustered at ends of main shoots of current season as well as on lateral branchlets; leaflets (7) 9-11; petals less than 2.5 cm long..............R. arkansana

Ecological Indicator Information

Species Mentioned


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

Rosa sp., WILD ROSE
Bella Coola: Roots and branches boiled, and the decoction taken internally, even ten cupfuls a day if desired, as a purgative for pain in the stomach.
Sikani: Roots crushed, steeped in water, and the decoction used as an eye-wash.[Smith(1927)]

Rosewater Hips

Herbalists often prescribe rose hip syrup for anemia; the mineral-rich hips are believed to stimulate production of red blood cells. Rose hip tea, besides being a pleasant everyday beverage, is especially appropriate for coughs and colds. Since ancient times, it's been advocated for women with cramps and uterine difficulties. Hips are touted to be a heart tonic, and are often added to herbal formulas for bladder and kidney problems due to their antibacterial and soothing properties. Hip seeds are added to liniments for arthritis. [Schofield]


Dena'ina Athabascans burn rose thorns from the stems and branches and then boil them in water until a dark brew results. This is drunk for ". . . colds, fever, stomach trouble, weak blood, and when a woman has a hard time menstruating." [Schofield]





R. pisocarpa, R. gymnocarpa, R. nutkana; The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers[214PFAF].


R. gymnocarpa; A decoction of the stems has been used as a tonic to treat general indisposition[257PFAF].

Cosmetic Uses

Rose buds and blossoms have long been revered for their moisturizing ability; they are one of the best herbs for irritated skin. Rose oils are ideal for the delicate breast tissue and for stretch marks and wrinkles. Rose-elder flower oil is famous as a wrinkle-remover. To prepare, place dry rose petals and elder flowers in a glass jar and cover with almond oil. Leave in the sun for ten days, shaking daily. Then strain the herbs, rebottle the oil, add vitamin E, and store in a cold dark closet. Use daily.[Schofield]

With rose hips up to sixty times richer in Vitamin C than lemon juice-and richer in iron, calcium, and phosphorus than oranges- you might as well get the most good out of them while insuring maximum flavor. The best way to do this is to use the rose hips the day they are picked and to gather them while they are red but slightly underripe on a dry, sunny day. [FFWE] One cup of the cleaned hips contains as much vitamin C as 12 dozen oranges (up to 7,000 milligrams of vitamin C per pound of raw pulp). [Nyerges]

Rosa gymnocarpa Nutt. (Dwarf Wild Rose) According to Suttles (1951), the hips were eaten by the Saanich, but Paul (1968) did not know of this use. [Turner&Bell1]
Rosa nutkana Presl. (Wild Rose) The hips were eaten raw in the autumn by the Saanich, Cowichan, and probably other groups (Paul, 1968). Also, in the spring, the tender young shoots were sometimes eaten. Wild rose roots, peeled and boiled, were used by the Cowichan along with gooseberry and cedar roots to make reef nets (Harry, 1969).[Turner&Bell1]

Parts used: Fruit, flower
TCM: Jin ying zi (Fructus Rosae laevigatae)- "golden cherry fruit"; sour, astringent, neutral; associated with bladder, kidneys, and large intestine 1. Stabilizes kidneys, retains essence and urine 2. Binds the intestines and stops diarrhea 3. Regulates qi and promotes circulation Classically, rose was used to treat frequent urination, incontinence, spermatorrhea, vaginal discharge, other urinary disorders, uterine bleeding, chronic diarrhea, prolapsed rectum or uterus, to "soothe a restless fetus," and for rheumatic pains.
Ayurveda: Used as in other traditions.
Western botanical: There are no references for the wild rose varieties from Asia, though other species such as dog rose (R. canina), field rose (R. arvensis), and red rose (R. gallica) have been used medicinaIly through out Europe and Asia for thousands of years. Rose water is a soothing and cooling application for chapped hands and face, as weIl as for lesions, inflammations, and skin sores. Rose water can also be mixed with honey to make a gargle for sores in the mouth and throat. The hips are astringent and nutritive and can be used similarly to the applications listed for TCM: for urinary complaints, for digestive issues like diarrhea and dysentery, for coughs and spitting of blood, and for strengthening the heart. The hips were historically used as a sweetening agent for medicinal candy, in combination with other herbs.
Plant Chemistry Afzelin, ascorbic acid, astragalin, B-sitosterol, campesterol, carotene, cat- echin, cholesterol, gallic acid, glycoside, isoquercitrin, kaempferol, mul- tiflorin, multinoside, quercetin, quercitrin, riboflavin, rosamultin, rutin, salicyl ic acid, scoparone, sucrose, tiliroside, and tormentic acid Pharmacological Actions Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antihyperlipidemic, antioxidant, antirheumatic
Scientific Studies Antibiotic: A decoction of R. laevigatae has an inhibitory effect on various influenza viruses and a limiting influence on Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Antioxidant: Rose hips contain large amounts of vitamin C (1,000-2,000 mg/l00 g) and provide the supplement industry with extracted forms of this weIl-known and potent antioxidant. It also contains the antioxi- dants rutin, quercetin, catechin, and kaempferol, among others.[InvasivePlantMed]

Wild roses are found throughout the United States and Canada along streams and around springs and wherever the soil is sufficiently moist. The rose is the most common garden plant in the entire United States. Whether in the wilderness or city, you can be sure that a rose is not far away. [Nyerges]

Growing Cycle The rose plant begins new growth in early spring. Though some varieties have longer flowering periods, the plant is generally in flower throughout the summer. In the fall, the rose hips begin to mature. If not picked, many of them will remain on the plant throughout the winter. [Nyerges]
Hedge: R. nutkana; The plant makes a good informal hedge[1PFAF].


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